Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks this afternoon on the floor of the U.S. Senate about how opponents of reform have used scare tactics to try to derail reform. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“This past April, as the health care debate was just getting underway, I sent my Republican counterpart a letter outlining our priorities for the health care debate. I wrote, of course, that Democrats are committed to lowering health care costs, expanding access and improving the quality of care. I said we looked forward to a dialogue about how to prevent disease, reduce health disparities, and encourage both early detection and effective treatments that save lives.
“But in that letter of five months ago, I also said that in order to help struggling Americans, we cannot drown in distractions and distortions.
“I made clear that bipartisanship depended on Republicans demonstrating a sincere interest in legislating. It depends on them joining us to offer concrete and constructive proposals – even if we disagree on the content of those ideas. It depends on us working together in our common interest – rather than against each other and against the interests of the American people.
“I stand by that assessment as strongly today as I did this spring. And it is painfully clear to everyone who has seen this debate’s disturbing turns and dishonest tactics that more than ever, we now need people willing to work in good faith. If we have learned anything from the recent rhetoric – both in our respective states and here in the Senate – it is that we need an honest debate.
“It is regrettable that we have seen far too little of that lately.
“Today I want to talk about one area of the debate, an area that has seen particularly reckless rumors and scare tactics: What health insurance reform will mean for seniors in America.
“A Republican congresswoman recently claimed that our plan to improve health care would ‘put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.’
“A Republican Senator made a similar statement to mislead his constituents: He actually accused Democrats of proposing a plan that would kill Americans.
“Others pretend our reforms will cut benefits, when in fact the only thing it cuts is waste.
“Is this any way to have an honest debate? Is this what our constituents sent us here to do? Some of our friends on the other side may not want to let reality get in the way of a good sound bite. But I think it is crucial that we get our facts straight.
“The fact is that ever since a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President created Medicare, Democrats have spent the past 40 years protecting America’s seniors.
“The fact is that ever since Senate Republicans opposed the creation of Medicare, they have spent the past 40 years on the wrong side of history when it comes to helping seniors.
“They conveniently ignore facts such as that in 1965, only half of the nation’s seniors had health insurance; today, almost every senior has good, full coverage. Seniors’ life expectancy has gone up, and the number of seniors living in poverty has gone down. And those on Medicare universally like it.
“But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from bragging about trying to kill Medicare. It hasn’t stopped them from looking out for insurance companies instead of their constituents. And in the past 10 years, it hasn’t stopped Republicans from voting against protecting and strengthening Medicare 59 times.
“I hope this year’s health insurance reform won’t be number 60 – because this bill will also protect and strengthen Medicare.
“It lowers the cost of medicine for seniors. It gives them free yearly checkups. It ensures better care for chronic illnesses. It gives doctors who treat seniors a raise – just to name a few. Again, the only thing it takes out of Medicare is the waste.
“Our opponents’ claims this time around are disingenuous at best and phony at worst. Disingenuous, because they have a long track record of standing in the way of giving America’s seniors what they need. Phony, because they completely and willfully misrepresent what the bills we are considering will actually do for our seniors.
“Rather than having a serious and real debate about a serious and real crisis, some would prefer to deploy tactics to frighten the American people. But what really frightens them is that under the status quo, they live just one illness, one accident or one pink slip away from losing everything.
“This is no time to let partisanship get the best of us.
“This is no time to obsess over rumors, or oppose ideas simply because they were proposed by people who sit on a different side of this chamber.
“This is no time to instill unfounded fears, or incite the hope that our nation’s leaders fail.
“This is the time to get serious about making it easier for American citizens to afford to live a healthy life.
“When it comes to Republicans attacks on Medicare, the messenger has no credibility and the message is nothing more than an excuse. At the end of the day, the other side’s insistence on spreading fear above all else is what will truly hurt our seniors, and all Americans.”